Rock and Roll Big Mama Thornton 1952



And “they” say it all started with Elvis. That’s like saying football started with Joe Namath. Was he important ? Hell yes ! But what we have to realize is that rock and roll was a term used to describe a musical movement that had been evolving for many years. Here is yet another blues/ R&B artist whose work was copied and repackaged for a different audience.

Big Mama Thornton offered up “Hound Dog” in 1952. It was her only big hit. Many years later when folks started  trying to understand the rock genre and it’s roots, it came to be one of the first rock and roll songs. Elvis did a relatively close cover in 1956 and the white teenagers ate it up. It is now considered one of the top rock and roll songs in history.



Even though she had a long career as a blues artist, she is best known for her two contributions to rock and roll. The first, of course, is “Hound Dog”, an early Leiber and Stoller rock contribution. The second memorable effort was one she wrote and recorded in the 60’s. Janis Joplin heard it and had a huge hit with “Ball ‘n’ Chain”. “They” say Big Mama’s recording of Houn’ Dog sold between one and two million copies in the Rhythm and Blues market. Unfortunately Big Mama got very little of the revenue.

Here is a link to much more information about another blues singer who was just trying to make a living. Unknowingly, she helped give birth to what we now know as Rock and Roll.

Info link                     Houn’ Dog             Ball ‘n’ Chain              Rock Me          

          Video link

If you have time, pay particular attention to her harmonica playing in the “Rock Me” video. It’s good !

I do hope you will take a few minutes to see what the emerging rock artists hearing back when the music was just getting started. The artists like Big Mama helped rock and roll get to it’s birth.

Enjoy the boogie.

John Boykin





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